Fresh Find: Piment d'Espelette

I love the mild ground red pepper piment d'Espelette, perhaps in part because it's relatively rare.

It's a controlled appellation product, meaning that the government -- the French government and the European Union, in this case -- protect it by only allowing its name to be put on pepper grown in a specific area (Champagne is another such French product).

These peppers are grown around Espelette in Pyrenees-Atlantiques in the southwest corner of the country on the border of Spain. Celebrated in an annual fall festival there, the pepper is an important part of the cuisine of the Basque country, and is one of the ingredients in a pepper sauce called piperade.

I used to have to order mine online, but now I can get the spice locally, as it's being carried by Savvy Spices on Banksville Road on the south edge of the city.

Owners Deb and Dave Johnson imported some and are selling it for $14.99 for a 1.4-ounce jar. Because of its AOC, or "appellation d'origine controlee," they have to sell it in jars so marked -- the first product they haven't sold in their own packaging.

You can put it on and in just about anything -- the Basques use it like we use black pepper. It's great on chicken.

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